From our collaborators at Johns Hopkins Medicine International | The science behind sleep and wellness

A 2019 update on sleep research

Poor sleep remains a problem around the world, and unfortunately Canadians continue to lie with the rest of the world when it comes to sleepless nights and the health ramifications that often come with it. A study of over 12,000 Canadians ranging in age from 3-79 years were asked about their routine sleep habits along with their overall health across a 4-year period. The report found that Canadians become more sleepless as they age, by the time Canadians reach adulthood only a little over 50% routinely get 7-9 hours of sleep nightly.

Medical conditions such as arthritis were closely associated with reduced sleep time, while psychosocial factors such as chronic stress and mood disorders were also associated with abnormal sleep durations. Interestingly, individual and environmental factors weighed heavily in the report as an increased perception of social isolation and poor community connectedness were also associated with poor sleep patterns in adults while increased second hand smoke exposure and screen time was associated with abnormal sleep duration in children.1

How can I reach ‘good sleeper’ status? Where do I start?

The first step in acquiring “good sleeper” status begins with raising awareness about the research and evidence unfolding about sleep health. Another study conducted as part of a large employee wellness program found that sleep troubles not only directly impacted absenteeism rates but also reduced work performance, work productivity and presenteeism rates with an immediate impact on health care costs. These findings further underscore the impact that sleep disruption has on our individual, professional, social, and economic vitality.2  This article provides a recap of some of the latest medical evidence to help the members of our Medcan community achieve optimal sleep health.

Robust evidence shows that sleep is not just a luxury. It is a critical element of wellness that all health-conscious individuals should incorporate into their routines.

Achieving “good sleeper” status starts with awareness and growing evidence suggests that achieving “good sleeper” status requires self-awareness of the following three critical sleep variables:

  1. Optimal Quality
  2. Optimal Quantity
  3. Optimal Timing

Sleep timing and duration affect quality and quantity

In other words, to get the best health benefit from sleep, individuals must routinely obtain the optimal quality and quantity required to feel sleep restored that is unencumbered by any environmental, physical, emotional or medical condition that would disrupt their sleep.

In addition, the sleep period should ideally occur during the body’s natural (circadian) sleep window. In most cases, the average adult requires 7-9 hours of sleep per night during the time period of approximately 11 p.m. – 7 a.m. and in a sleep conducive environment.

Much has been reported about the importance of getting an adequate amount of “shut eye” and treating underlying sleep disorders to obtain good sleep quality. However, regimenting the bedtime and wake time for your ideal sleep period has gained greater attention recently.  For instance, a 2014 study of Canadian health behaviours in school-aged children found that those children who routinely reported later bedtimes (even when able to sleep in) reported more frequent physical complaints that included body aches, gastro-intestinal complaints, headaches and dizziness. As little as a one hour later bedtime was also associated with unhealthy behavioral decisions including higher rates of smoking, soda consumption, screen time and less vegetable consumption.3 The variables required to achieve these three components can vary somewhat across individuals and therefore it is imperative that one self reflects and investigates the ideal bedtime, sleep duration and sleep environment to achieve “good sleeper” status.

Dr. Charlene Gamaldo is the Medical Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep.

  1. Chang VC, Chaput JP, Roberts KC, Jayaraman G, Do MT. Factors associated with sleep duration across life stages: results from the Canadian Health Measures Survey https://doi.org/10.24095/hpcdp.38.11.02
  2. Hui SA and Grandner MA. Trouble Sleeping Associated with Lower Work Performance and Greater Health Care CostsLongitudinal Data from Kansas State Employee Wellness Program. JOEM Volume 57, Number 10, October 2015.
  3. Gariepy G et al., More than just sleeping in: a late timing of sleep is associated with health problems and unhealthy behaviors in adolescents, Sleep Medicine, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2018.10.029.

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